Publisher: Aria Fiction
Genre: Psychological Thriller
A breathtaking, heart-pounding, dark debut, sure to delight fans of The Girl on the Train and Before I Go To Sleep.
‘Why won’t Mummy wake up?’
When Anna, a much-loved teacher and mother of two, is left savagely beaten and in a coma, a police investigation is launched. News of the attack sends shock waves through her family and their small Swedish community. Anna seems to have had no enemies, so who wanted her dead?
As loved-ones wait anxiously by her bedside, her husband Erik is determined to get to the bottom of the attack, and soon begins uncovering his wife’s secret life, and a small town riven with desire, betrayal and jealousy.
As the list of suspects grows longer, it soon becomes clear that only one person can reveal the truth, and she’s lying silent in a hospital bed…
I’m delighted to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for the When I Wake Up. I have an extract and a review to share today.
“Erik collecting the boys?” Kent asked, handing Anna a cup of coffee.
She looked up from the paperwork, happy for the interruption.
“Yes, I’m marking exam papers.”
It was a cold and bleak afternoon; autumn was on the doorstep with woolly cardigans making an appearance in the teacher’s lounge. She wrapped her fingers tightly around the hot cup.
“How’s it going with the new student, Daniel?” Kent made himself comfortable on the corduroy couch next to her desk. “Is he still testing the limits?”
She shrugged. “Basically, yes. I’ve tried reaching out to the parents but there seem to be a number of problems at home.”
”What about the school counsellor?”
“He won’t talk to ‘a shrink’. His words, not mine. I’ve explained that it’s confidential but he doesn’t buy it. He’s very private, on edge, you know.”
Living in a small town did make it harder for people to open up. Students and parents were often worried that everyone would know their business.
Kent sipped his coffee, nodding. “Should we involve social services?” he asked.
She smiled at him, relaxing her shoulders from the stressful day; she loved that he cared, not just about his own students but also about hers. Their friendship kept her coming back to this school every year.
“I’m not sure,” she said.
“Anna, you can’t save every child on your own.”
“I know,” she said defensively. “I’ll think about it. I don’t want to cause him more harm. He’s obviously just trying to get attention.”
“Causing fights will definitely achieve that.”
“That’s why I need to find a way to reach out to him.”
She wanted to tell him about the letters Daniel had written to her but she couldn’t. Kent would worry, and although it wasn’t her job to protect him, she was determined to deal with this on her own.
She had received the first letter in August, when school started after the summer break. As was always the case with new pupils, she had secretly hoped for a studious and conscientious addition, although this had quickly turned out to be a fantasy.
I hate school and I know I’m going to hate you. People like you think you rule over me, but you don’t. No one does. If you understand that, we have no problems. If you don’t… you’ll see what will happen.
At first she had felt threatened. Scared even. Then she had taken a step back and viewed it from a different angle. After all, it was ridiculous to be intimidated by a seventeen-year-old. She was nearly twice his age. He was simply reaching out to her. That’s what her years of experience told her, that it was a cry for help.
The next letter had been similar in nature but then they had become milder.
I hate you. You think I can’t read. That’s why you don’t write back. You think I’m stupid?
He wanted her to reply. So far she hadn’t. Was it ethically correct to correspond with a student in this way? Didn’t it mean she was showing favouritism? She wanted to ask Kent’s advice but she had a feeling he would object to any written communication with a student.
“His writing is good,” she said. “Above average actually.”
“Well, at least that’s something.” He looked tired. The stress of the new school system was getting to him. ‘Good thing I’m retiring soon’ he would say. “Let me know if I can help in any way.”
“I will,” she said.
When I Wake Up is told through various viewpoints both before Anna’s attack and afterwards. There is a lot going here and several characters to follow, but it wasn’t confusing at all. The chapters are clearly labeled by name and the month and year so it’s super easy to keep up with. Part of the fun of this book is with so many characters, virtually everyone is a suspect. At first glance, it seems really strange that a well respected teacher like Anna would be a target of a violent crime, but as the story unfolds, you learn that Anna had some really dark secrets she was hiding and plenty of people had the means and motivations to want to silence her.
I really liked the setting of a small Swedish town that looks and sounds idyllic but had some skeletons in its closet. All of the characters were unlikable and made poor decisions and had me shaking my head several times, but that never bothers me. It only adds to the mystery and tension as I try and figure out if anyone is actually a good person. I do want to point out that there are some very sexually explicit love scenes that I was not expecting, so be warned. I’m usually not a huge fan of that stuff in thrillers but it did work here and fit into the twisty storyline well.
Overall rating: 4/5
Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.
About the Author:
Born in Sweden, Jessica moved to London at the age of 18 to obtain a BSc Hons degree in Publishing and Business. She worked in publishing in the UK for a number of years before heading to Chicago where she edited a magazine for expats. Back in Sweden, she completed a Masters in Creative Writing. Since 2010, Jessica has taught journalism and media at a local university, and has spent the last five years as the marketing and PR manager for a British firm. Last year, she was one of the winners in the Montegrappa Prize for First Fiction at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. Jessica is married with three spirited children, and although she’s known for her positivity, her writing tends to be rather dark!